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How to use and get more out of LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the social networking site for professionals. But how do you best utilise the services on offer? Below are some tips and tricks for helping you get the most out of LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is the social networking site for professionals. But how do you best utilise the services on offer? Below are some tips and tricks for helping you get the most out of LinkedIn.

(You can also get help on at the LinkedIn Learning Centre.)

What you’ll read in this article:

  • LinkedIn helps you find solutions
  • LinkedIn and Twitter Partnership: Do's and Don'ts for Users
  • Integrate LinkedIn With Outlook
  • The Right Way to Request New Connections
  • How to Use "Company Follow"

LinkedIn helps you find solutions

By David Spark

Every day in business, you're either looking for a solution to a problem or you want to be the solution to somebody else's problem. In an effort to achieve those two goals, we network. Online social networking has become the de rigueur method used today--and sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn offer the promise of extending your reach and making useful business contacts.

But the efficacy of online social networking for business has been debatable. When you begin, you often give far more to the community than you receive, and it's hard to separate business networking from networking to build personal connections. While some argue that personal networking adds value because it helps you increase your contacts, others shy away altogether for fear of getting sucked into unproductive activities like endless instant-messaging and following Twitter feeds.

And there's no simple formula that indicates how much time we need to spend on social networking sites in order to see results with an increasing number of useful contacts and improved business growth. Nevertheless, as successful networkers argue, it's good, even important, to get started so that the contacts are there when you need them.

Build Your Presence

Three of the most popular social networking applications--Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter--have risen to become standard tools that are used across all industries and interests. While setting up a complete profile on these applications should be one of your initial default actions, it's more important to talk to connected people in your industry and ask them what services they're using. Your industry may have specific user groups in niche sites that connect businesses with consumers. As just one example, if you're in the restaurant or hospitality industry, you'll want to be on--and follow--Yelp.

A complete profile is welcoming, so be sure to take the time to fill out all the public information, from past job history to current employment, that you want people to know. An incomplete profile screams, "Since I didn't have time to finish this profile, I don't have time to participate in this social network or to talk to you."

Being easy to reach means, as well, providing direct contact information, such as your IM addresses, Skype user name, e-mail address, Twitter name, and phone number. You should make yourself easy to find by including appropriate keywords in all your profiles. For example, if you work in solar power, include words such as "energy," "sustainable," and "green." Your discoverability will be tied closely to your blog, if you have one, as well as to your LinkedIn profile, which will rank very high in Google searches, especially if you customize the public URL with your real name.

One important note: Don't discount the networking value of your e-mail signature. Beyond your position and e-mail address, include in your signature both your best contact information and links to your blog and LinkedIn profile. People you contact will want to investigate who you are, and if they like what they see, they'll want to follow up.

Clean Up What's Already Online

You probably already have an online presence on a variety of sites. You should definitely clean up inactive profiles and compromising content, says David McClure, producer of the Graphing Social Patterns conference, which focuses on the business and technology of social networking platforms. McClure recommends that you search your name on Google, Spock, and Zoominfo to see what undesirable items are readily available for you to remove, such as embarrassing photos. You should also find old, inactive accounts and delete them.

If you find something truly damaging, you can send a request to the poster to remove the information. Both Spock and Zoominfo will update or delete personal information on request.

And in the future, be careful what you post online, whether it's a photo, a blog post, or even a public bookmark. All such items can be tied back to your online profiles and be easily seen, especially if you subscribe to a life-streaming application such as FriendFeed.

Grow Your Network

To help you quickly realize the benefits of social networking, most services will assist your network-building by scanning your contacts (via your uploaded contacts list or by logging into your Web mail account) to see who's already using the service. For those already on, you can easily invite them into your network.

The next step is usually to spam the rest of your contacts with an invite to join the social network--but think twice before you select that option. Not everyone you know will appreciate being spammed, and such messages tend not to generate many accepted invitations.

Other ways you can grow your network: Repeat your address-book scan periodically, not just because you add new contacts, but because people already in your contacts database will eventually join these services. Also, you can rewrite the generic greeting, "I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn," with something a little more personal. It'll result in many more accepted invites.

After you've begun to grow a network on Facebook, you should check the "People You May Know" option on the front page to look for people with whom you may have friends in common. Repeat this step periodically, as the results will likely change every time you try it. LinkedIn has a similar "People you may know" option that scans for people you may have worked with.

Lastly, if you think someone you're inviting may not remember you, send a personal invitation explaining how you know each other. Don't rely on the blanket invite.

Once you're all set up, you should begin to get out in the real world and use both your social network's calendar and the listings in event sites like Upcoming and Workit to find events of interest to your business. Facebook will also help you find pertinent events with alerts on your feed about parties that many of your friends are attending.

Most people don't follow up when they exchange business cards. You should. Get through them quickly by purchasing a business card scanner--such as one from CardScan--that will import contacts straight into the contacts database you maintain in Outlook or other client. Write a follow-up note via traditional e-mail or through an invite on one of the social networks. Lastly, think like an e-mail marketer and set up or hold your e-mail messages to be sent the next morning (at 9:30 or 10, say) for the highest probability of being read.

Manage the Flow of Information

Your next step should be to sign up with RSS feeds, so you can stay on top of hot industry issues and know when someone is talking about you. This is the key to discovering solutions for your business needs.

You also might want to set up Google Alerts to receive e-mails for mentions of hot industry terms and your company name in the mainstream news.

Naturally, this will generate an onslaught of information that will you have to sift through, and many users can get bogged down plowing through all that data at the expense of actually participating in any networks. Over time, you'll discover which of these feeds you need to follow and which ones you can delete.

Tools for Building Your Brand

To build your own personal brand online, you should keep in mind your objective of broadcasting your ability to provide answers to others' questions, and stay focused on providing value to your community. At first you'll be giving a lot more than you'll get back, but be unstinting, advises Chris Heuer, cofounder of The Conversation Group, a social media consultancy. Over time, your audience will acknowledge your contributions, and you'll see returns.

To start the process of contributing, begin by watching and listening to the conversation on Twitter using the Twhirl application. Twitter is an outbound communications tool that can quickly morph into a conversational tool not unlike IM. When someone asks a question, jump in and provide recommendations. If certain users start clogging up your feed with useless non-business-related information, don't hesitate to stop following them.

You can also incorporate tools you're already using outside of Facebook into your Facebook profile. For example, if you use FriendFeed, install the FriendFeed application. You can also cross-post your Tweets (Twitter updates) onto Facebook with the Twitter application.

To get into the groove of participating in conversation in the blogosphere, follow the 4-to-1 rule: Comment on four posts for every post that you write, recommends blogger Adam Metz, who offers social media strategies on his blog MetzMash. You can also build your industry expertise by answering questions on LinkedIn Answers.

While LinkedIn doesn't live and breathe on a daily basis like the rest of the suggested tools, it is a 100-percent business-oriented application. It is best used as a résumé substitute. Instead of forwarding a Microsoft Word document, forward your public LinkedIn profile.

To beef up your LinkedIn résumé, include at least one to three recommendations for each position in your profile. To get those much needed references, write recommendations of past managers and people you supervised, says McClure. If they're still good contacts, chances are they'll write a reciprocal recommendation for you.

Who Should You Network With?

Good networking isn't about seeing how many friends you can boast on your Facebook profile. It's about connecting to the right people and getting them to know about your products and services. Here are a few tips on how to find the top people in your industry.

Follow the hot lists, such as those put out by Crain's, Forbes, Fortune, and other business publications. These magazines always have lists of the top and up-and-coming executives. Scan the lists and see who's relevant in your industry, and then follow the content these executives create through Technorati searches, blogs, and Twitter. If you're very interested in having them recognize you, comment heavily on their posts and Tweets, and provide valuable information. Over time they'll recognize you as a contributor, and you'll be on their radar. When you're ready to approach them for something you really want, they'll be more receptive to your plea.

Sites such as Squidoo and About provide forums for people to showcase themselves as experts in almost any subject across all industries. You can create your own area of expertise on these sites, but it's best to begin by following the sites' self-professed experts. Talk to them directly. Find out who they're connected to and where they get their information. People love to share their daily media appetite.

You should also reach out to people who comment on your blog and follow you on Twitter. Those people are hot leads. Respond directly to them and ask them to tell a little about themselves and how they ended up commenting on your blog or following you on Twitter. If you sign up for a service like MyBlogLog, you can find other members who are reading your blog, even if they don't leave a comment. You can reach out to them as well.

Reach Out

The last rule of business social networking: Don't hesitate to introduce yourself to someone. Use LinkedIn to search your network for contacts at specific companies you're trying to reach. If you don't have an "in" but are dying to meet someone you've discovered, you should go ahead and reach out. While compliments always help, don't just send a fan letter; give them an engagement point to begin discussion. Tell them who you are, how you discovered them, and why you're interested in opening up a dialogue.

Over time, as you and your contacts scan one another's profiles, blogs, and Web sites--often in real time--dynamic opportunities are bound to arise. To realize online social networking's benefits, you'll have to find your own balance of scanning and broadcasting information. It's a comfort level that will likely change as your needs change over time.

Next: LinkedIn and Twitter Partnership: Do's and Don'ts for Users

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LinkedIn and Twitter Partnership: Do's and Don'ts for Users

Ian Paul

LinkedIn and Twitter announced a partnership allowing you to push your LinkedIn status updates out to your Twitter account or pull your tweets into your professional profile. Twitter co-founder Biz Stone called it "bringing the peanut butter and the chocolate together to make the perfect combination."

Twitter integration with LinkedIn makes sense, but don't forget these two services are very different from each other. Twitter is a very casual and fun network with its short burst messages, while LinkedIn is all about connecting with colleagues, other professionals and furthering your career. If you integrate your Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, be prepared to make smart choices about what you share across these services, because what's perfectly acceptable on one network, may not work on the other.

The Basics

You have three options for integrating LinkedIn with Twitter: you can rebroadcast your LinkedIn status updates to Twitter, turn your tweets into your LinkedIn status or both. To start integrating your tweets, you need to edit your LinkedIn settings by adding Twitter from your profile page or by clicking the Twitter icon next to your status on the homepage. Twitter integration will be rolled out to all LinkedIn users over the next few days, so you may not see the new feature right away.

DO's and Don'ts

DO broadcast your LinkedIn status to Twitter. Chances are your updates on LinkedIn contain things you want to talk about with as many people as possible like what you're working on, what you need help with or just a general question. Broadcasting these updates to your Twitter followers will only add to your knowledge and help get the word out about what you're doing. To push your LinkedIn status out to Twitter, click the check box next to the Twitter icon on your LinkedIn homepage, enter your update and click "Share."

DO link multiple Twitter accounts to your LinkedIn profile. If you have more than one Twitter identity, you probably have one account for personal tweets and others related to your business or job. It's almost impossible to hide your personal Twitter account from the rest of the world, so why not integrate all your Twitter accounts with LinkedIn? Besides, if you send out a lot of work-related or topical items from your personal account, you may want your professional network to see these tweets. LinkedIn did not specify how many Twitter accounts you could add, or what kind of broadcasting controls it offers for integrating multiple accounts.

DON'T send all your tweets to LinkedIn. Twitter's not just a professional broadcast tool it's also a fun way to connect with others. Don't forget that. LinkedIn gives you the option to only send tweets to your profile marked with the '#in' or '#li' hashtags or to send all your tweets to LinkedIn. Make sure you choose the hashtag option so only the tweets you decide to share will get through to your LinkedIn account. Sharing an update about your recent promotion on LinkedIn via Twitter is a great idea, but all those drunken tweets you send out on Saturdays won't look so hot on your professional profile.

DON'T display your Twitter account on LinkedIn. LinkedIn gives you the option of installing a Twitter widget on your LinkedIn profile that will show your most recent tweets. You don't want to do this for the reasons given above, not to mention the fact that you're already sending your tweets to your LinkedIn status. Why the double exposure? There is such a thing as Twitter overkill.

DON'T forget about LinkedIn. Chances are you'll be in front of your Twitter account more often than your LinkedIn page, so remember your colleagues. There are many tweets you'll want to share with them, but if you took my previous advice you'll need to type '#in' or '#li' every time you want to send a tweet to LinkedIn. Don't forget this.

Next: Integrate LinkedIn With Outlook

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Integrate LinkedIn With Outlook

Kristin Burnham

What It Is:

Beginning today, if you're a Microsoft (MSFT) Outlook user, you can integrate your LinkedIn network with your Outlook inboxes. This is the fruit of a partnership between Microsoft and LinkedIn that was originally announced in November. This new feature will give you greater transparency into the people with whom you e-mail: Photos of your connection are displayed in your e-mails, activity from your connection is aggregated at the bottom of e-mails and a new folder in Outlook is displayed containing e-mail addresses and profile details.

How It Works:

Click here to download the latest version of the Outlook Social Connector from Microsoft. This download requires Outlook 2003, 2007 or 2010. Once that is installed, download the LinkedIn Outlook Connecter here. Then restart your Outlook application and follow the instructions to connect your LinkedIn account to Outlook.

What You'll Find:

After your downloads are complete, you'll see a LinkedIn folder appear in Outlook. This folder aggregates information from your LinkedIn account and your Outlook contacts, presenting it in a business-card format that includes the contact's photo, title and e-mail address. You can e-mail your LinkedIn connections by typing a person's name into the Outlook "To:" box and letting Outlook fill in the rest. You may also search for a specific contact alphabetically.

Additionally, in a new window pane under an e-mail from a contact, you'll see a summary of the contact's most recent LinkedIn activity, status updates, accepted connections and e-mails. You can sort these updates by news feed updates and RSS articles about this person; e-mail messages; attachments; meetings and status updates by clicking on the icons to the left of the feed. If you are not yet connected on LinkedIn, you can click "Add" to add them to your network.

The Right Way to Request New Connections

We've all done this: You sign into LinkedIn, glance at the "People You May Know" box and recognize a few names. Perhaps they're former colleagues, friends from college, or maybe they're people you've never met before, but you know they'd be a good connection to make. You click "Connect," choose how you know her, and fire off the invitation with the typical boilerplate, I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.

Good, right?

Not if you're serious about making the connection, says Lewis Howes, author of LinkedWorking: Generating Success On The World's Largest Professional Networking Website.

"Never send an invitation to connect with anyone without making it a personalized message," Howes says. "You want to be remembered; you want to connect with them on a personal level."

Here are three steps to follow the next time you're serious about making a connection on LinkedIn.

1. Do Your Homework Before job seekers interview for a job opening, they research the company to learn everything you can about it, right? The same holds true for connecting with people on LinkedIn.

Before you click "Connect," browse their profile to obtain an understanding of who they are. Where are they working? What jobs have they held in the past? What LinkedIn groups do they belong to? What are their interests? Do they have a blog? Having an understanding of the person before you interact with them is key, Howes says.

2. Find Common Ground

After researching the person you want to connect with, find and jot down at least two or three things you have in common, Howes recommends. This could be anything from sharing an alma mater, to belonging to the same LinkedIn group, to having another connection in common.

3. Craft A Personal Note

Now you're ready to connect. Instead of sending out the impersonal, standard message that accompanies LinkedIn invitations, Howes recommends combining the information above to generate a memorable introduction before you tell them why you want to connect. An example:

Hi Megan, I noticed that we were both in the (fill in the blank) group on Linked In, that Jeff Smith and John Rodgers were mutual friends and that we grew up in the same city.

I've heard great things about (fill in the blank) and thought it would be great to reach out and connect to learn more about it from you.

Would you be open to a quick call this Tuesday at noon or Thursday at 3pm to discuss it? Let me know if e-mail works best for you instead, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Connecting with them on a personal level breaks a barrier," Howes says. "People only do business with people they trust, so you want to try to make them trust you right off the bat," he says.

Next: How to Use "Company Follow"

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How to Use "Company Follow"

What LinkedIn's "Company Follow" Is:

LinkedIn announced today a new feature, similar to Facebook's fan pages, that lets you "follow" companies on the professional networking site and keep track of their key developments, potential business opportunities and job leads. This tool is especially helpful for job seekers who want to keep tabs on businesses to which they've applied, and for businesses looking to monitor their competitors' announcements.

The feature, says Ryan Roslansky, director of product management at LinkedIn, can deliver insights into these companies that might surprise you. For example, he says, you can discover the pace of hiring at your nearest competitor or the start of a whole new industry.

How to Use LinkedIn's "Company Follow":

Whether you're applying for a job at a particular company—or if you're looking for companies that interest you in your geography—there are two ways you can go about following them.

1. If you come across someone's profile who either is currently employed at or was formerly affiliated with a company, hover over any of the companies listed and click the "Follow Company" icon from the bar that pops up to begin following that company.

2. You can also follow companies by performing a search by choosing the "More..." tab on your LinkedIn toolbar and clicking "Companies." This brings you to the "Companies Home" page that lets you search for businesses by company name or keyword, and lets you set your location. This page also displays the companies you're currently following, and aggregates any news or jobs that company has listed.

How to Use LinkedIn's "Company Follow" Privacy Settings

On your "Companies Home" page, choose the "Following" tab to view which businesses you are monitoring and to change your privacy settings. You can click the "Stop following" link to remove the company from your list, or choose "Notification settings" to adjust what information you see and how often you see it.

Your privacy options include whether or not you're notified when employees join the company, leave it or are promoted; new job opportunities arise; and when the company's profile is updated. You can also choose how you're notified of the news: via Network Updates or an e-mail digest sent daily or weekly.